Is All Recovery 12-Step Recovery?

Addiction Recovery Publishing Addiction Recovery July 5, 2024

Is All Recovery 12-Step Recovery?

Almost 90 years ago, two people struggling with addiction got together and determined two things if they were to ever get sober. One was they were going to have to find something greater than themselves to rely upon (what they called a “Higher Power”). Two was that they had to help other people struggling with addiction if they were to have any hope of recovering. These two individuals were Bill Wilson and Robert Holbrook Smith, the co-founders of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and 12-Step recovery.

What Does It Mean to Heal at the Cellular Level?

Healing at the cellular level means to heal all parts of “the Self.” These parts include the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual Self. 

The only way that this can happen is if one engages fully in their recovery. This can be looked upon as utilizing the three “A’s”: to acknowledge that there is a problem, accept help for that problem, and take action to correct that problem. 

These A’s can be found in the Twelves Steps of 12-Step recovery. There is also another “A,” which can be found in the First Step.

The First Step states, “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.” This act of “admitting powerless” can be vital for healing at the cellular level (whether one practices the Steps or not).

However, understanding and philosophizing about these concepts is not going to be enough to fully recover at the cellular level. As previously mentioned, one must take action. A “multi-angled” approach is the best way to do that.

What Is the “Multi-Angled” Approach to Addiction Recovery?

The Fourth Step states, “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” This is an example of an action step that can take place when one is engaged in multi-angled recovery.

Multi-angled recovery means taking a comprehensive approach to treatment by using as many means, methods, and modalities available. This includes psychotherapeutic approaches, experiential approaches, experimental approaches, and holistic healing methods. For some, it also includes 12-Step recovery. Of course, that is an individualized choice.

The Importance of Individualized Addiction Care

Here at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab, we understand that overarching “broad” recovery plans rarely work. This is because they do not take the individual into account. 

Only an individualized intake and assessment are going to help the recovery professionals responsible for an individual’s success build the right road map for an effective treatment plan. As the founding father of Western medicine, Hippocrates, famously said, “It’s far more important to know what person the disease has than what disease the person has.”

A focus on individualized care is also going to allow an individual to determine the best path toward recovery for them. This may include certain modalities and exclude others. It may include religion and/or spirituality or it may take a more agnostic approach. Also, it may or may not utilize the Twelve Steps originated in AA.

What Exactly Is 12-Step Recovery?

12-Step recovery is a program that was started nearly 90 years ago to help people struggling with alcohol use disorder (AUD) recover. It created Twelve Steps as a “design for living” that has now become a “solution” for millions of people and their families to achieve recovery.

While 12-Step recovery originated as a spiritual program specifically for alcohol addiction, it has since branched out, so there are programs specific to other substances (Narcotics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, etc.) and programs that avoid its spiritual principles.

The format of 12-Step recovery is relatively universal. It involves practicing the Twelve Steps with a sponsor (someone who has been through the Twelve Steps and is in recovery) and going to recovery meetings regularly. Of course, there are many variations as the program offers a lot of flexibility to be more inclusive for people.

As previously mentioned, one of the major keys to 12-Step recovery is working with other people in recovery. In fact, there is even a chapter in the primary text of 12-Step recovery (commonly referred to as the Big Book) entitled “Working With Others.” The chapter states, “Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking [and using] as intensive work with other [people in recovery]. It works when other activities fail…. You can help when no one else can.” Of course, one does not have to be in 12-Step recovery to work with other people in recovery.

Is All Recovery 12-Step Recovery?

Many people are under the misconception that all recovery is 12-Step recovery. This is understandable as it is the most recognizable form of recovery. However, this is simply not true.

Many people choose a non-12-Step recovery route. The interesting aspect of this is that other than the Twelve Steps, the two paths can be very similar. For example, people may choose to focus their recovery in the realm of psychotherapy. But that does not mean that they cannot also use the Twelve Steps. Essentially, 12-Step recovery can be incorporated into almost any program.

There are a couple of programs that choose not to utilize aspects of 12-Step recovery. A couple of examples of these are SMART recovery and LifeRing recovery. One of the primary reasons that these types of recovery are so different is that they choose to remain secular forms of recovery.

Understanding the Difference Between Religion and Spirituality

Many people balk at the spiritual aspect of 12-Step recovery. This is understandable as at its core it offers spiritual principles.

Many people also are under the misconception that 12-Step recovery is a religious program. It is not. Yes, some people choose to incorporate their own religious principles, but that is a personal choice. 

There is a big difference between religious and spiritual. Religion has a specific doctrine and spirituality can be more fluid. This is especially true in 12-Step recovery where they often use the term “Higher Power of your understanding” rather than “God.”

Understanding the Meaning of “A Higher Power of One’s Own Understanding”

The Second of the Twelve Steps states, “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” It is important to note that this step states “Power” rather than “God.” This is because 12-Step recovery wants to stay inclusive and open to what everyone’s concept of God is (even if that is “no God”).

Many people in 12-Step recovery choose to make their Higher Power something more fluid than a specific religious diety. Some people choose the Universe as their Higher Power. Others choose the people in their recovery group as their Higher Power, and others choose to make their Higher Power something that changes from day to day. 

The key is to make one’s Higher Power something other than oneself. This helps to ensure that there is something outside of oneself to rely upon when times become trying. For example, when someone is feeling “triggered” toward a relapse, which is more common than many people may think.

According to the peer-reviewed journal Current Psychiatry Reports, “It has long been known that addictive disorders are chronic and relapsing in nature. Recent estimates from clinical treatment studies suggest that more than two-thirds of individuals relapse within weeks to months of initiating treatment.” Also, “For 1-year outcomes across alcohol, nicotine, weight, and illicit drug abuse, studies show that more than 85% of individuals relapse and return to drug use within 1 year of treatment.” 12-Step recovery can help prevent these relapses, but it can be even more preventative when used in tandem with other treatments.

Using 12-Step Recovery With Other Means, Methods, and Modalities

As previously mentioned, it is important to engage with a comprehensive recovery plan. This ensures that no stone is left unturned when it comes to getting to the root/core causes of one’s addiction issues.

Many people are under the misconception that 12-Step recovery must be exclusive from other forms of recovery. This is simply not true. In fact, it greatly benefits when used with other means, methods, and modalities. This includes modalities like surf therapy, horticulture therapy, yoga and meditation, and nature immersion therapy.

12-Step Recovery and Nature Immersion Therapy

Here on the Hamakua Coast of Hawaii’s Big Island, there is some of the most engaging nature in the world. This includes amazing waterfalls, beautiful beaches, outstanding overlooks, and even a live volcano. It makes it an ideal place to practice nature immersion therapy.

Many people don’t realize that simply being in nature can bring about benefits. According to the National Park Service, “5 minutes walking in nature improves mood, self-esteem, and relaxation. Frequent exposure to nature reduces anxiety and depression, while promoting a sense of well-being and fulfillment.” Also, “Physical activity in a green space can reduce stress and lowers cortisol levels by 15%.”

Of course, specific nature immersion therapy offers more specific benefits for those struggling with issues of addiction and mental illness. According to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, “Besides physical health improvements, nature exposure can bring about positive influence upon psychological constructs such as boredom, friendliness, well-being, and liveliness. However, across more than one hundred studies on nature/wildlife exposure, stress mitigation has been shown to be one of the most consistent and important psychological benefits.” Also, “Besides improvements to physical and psychological well-being, exposure to natural environments has been shown to bring about positive impacts on cognitive functioning.”

A big part of 12-Step recovery is opening up one’s world after active addiction made it so small. Experiential therapy, like nature immersion therapy, helps make that happen. 

12-Step Recovery and Surf Therapy

Another version of nature immersion therapy is surf therapy. It just happens to take place in the water. The Hamakua Coast of Hawaii’s Big Island is also an ideal place to practice surf therapy. In fact, one of the best surf breaks on the Island is a mere 15-minute journey from our 30-acre luxury property at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab.

Surf therapy can truly open up one’s world in 12-Step recovery. It may even become the impetus for one’s Higher Power.

Surf therapy also offers many benefits that can help someone recover from addiction. According to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, “Carefully planned water activities tailored to the needs of the individual can contribute to correct psychosocial and cognitive development. The International Surf Therapy Organization summarizes the benefits of adequately indicated surf therapy as follows: improved physical health and mobility; improved mental health, including reduction of specific symptoms, such as posttraumatic stress and depression; improved well-being (strengthening of trust and confidence, encouragement of independence, resilience and protective coping strategies) and improved social skills.”

12-Step Recovery and Horticulture Therapy

While the Twelve Steps for recovery have been around for less than a hundred years, horticulture has been used as a means of mental wellness for thousands of years (though it didn’t specify as much). Recently, horticulture has been recognized as a legitimate therapy to help people in mental health and addiction recovery.

The reason for this is that horticulture engagement has shown a myriad of benefits. According to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, “People’s interactions with plants, through goal-orientated horticultural activities in the form of active gardening, as well as the passive appreciation of nature, could be therapeutic to people with mental disorders in many ways. First, horticulture could have emotional benefits, such as reducing stress, reducing psychiatric symptoms, stabilizing mood, and increasing the sense of tranquility, spirituality, and enjoyment. Second, it could help people to reduce fatigue and restore attention and cognitive ability.”

Horticulture therapy also offers a great opportunity to interact with other people in recovery, which is an essential component of both 12-Step and non-12-Step recovery. The same can be said for the community that is offered via many types of yoga and meditation.

12-Step Recovery and Yoga and Meditation

Like horticulture therapy, yoga and meditation have been practiced for thousands of years. They have also both been integrated into the recovery realm in recent years.

Yoga offers many essential benefits. According to the International Journal of Yoga (IJOY), “Therapeutic yoga is defined as the application of yoga postures and practice to the treatment of health conditions. Yoga therapy involves instruction in yogic practices and teachings to prevent reduce or alleviate structural, physiological, emotional and spiritual pain, suffering or limitations. Yogic practices enhance muscular strength and body flexibility, promote and improve respiratory and cardiovascular function, promote recovery from and treatment of addiction, reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain, improve sleep patterns, and enhance overall well-being and quality of life.”

Mediation offers many similar benefits, but also some that are specifically unique to the practice. According to the International Quarterly Journal in Ayurveda Research (AYU), “During the process of meditation, accumulated stresses are removed, energy is increased, and health is positively affected overall. Research has confirmed a myriad of health benefits associated with the practice of meditation. These include stress reduction, decreased anxiety, decreased depression, reduction in pain (both physical and psychological), improved memory, and increased efficiency.”

The Eleventh Step states, “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with [a Higher Power] as we understood [Them], praying only for knowledge of [Their] will for us and the power to carry that out.” One can see how yoga and meditation can really help to facilitate this process.

Offering All Types of Recovery at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab

Here at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab, we understand that there are countless ways to recover. This includes 12-Step and non-12-Step recovery. It also includes an amalgamation of both. The key is that we all have the same goal in mind – long-term success and wellness.

There is a statement that is often read in 12-Step recovery meetings known as the “Responsibility Statement.” It reads, “I am responsible, when anyone, anywhere reaches out for help, I want the hand of [recovery] always to be there. And for that: I am responsible.” At Exclusive Hawaii Rehab, we take that responsibility seriously. Yes, there is a solution. We can help make it happen.

Many people think that all recovery is Twelve Step based. This is not the case. There are many alternatives to 12-Step recovery. However, 12-Step recovery can also be integrated into any recovery plan. Whether it involves the Twelve Steps or not, the key is to engage in a recovery plan that is both individualized and comprehensive. If you feel like you or a loved one is struggling with issues of addiction, mental illness, or comorbidities, we can help get you on the right road to recovery right away. You don’t have to do this alone. For more information about 12-Step recovery, as well as alternatives, please reach out to Exclusive Hawaii Rehab today at (808) 775-0200.